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Priorities at the NAACP

At its 102nd annual convention at the end of July, the NAACP passed a resolution calling for an end to the war on drugs. Here’s the statement of president Benjamin Todd Jealous in the press release:

“These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America.” The resolution takes aim at sentencing disparities in drug-related crimes and suggests that they have created a system comparable to “Jim Crow.”

Once again, the NAACP seems to be focusing on the perpetrators of drug-based crimes, more than the  innocent victims (who are also disproportionately black). All of these calls for the reduction of sentences for drug-based crimes will result in the quick return of criminals to predominantly black neighborhoods. (In fact, by suggesting that the problem with the drug war is that it doesn’t sufficiently focus on “root causes,” the NAACP is implying that the drug users and the drug runners are also, of course, victims of some larger system.)

Before the NAACP leadership gets on its high horse about this, maybe they should go ask a mother trying to raise kids in an inner-city neighborhood how she feels about this, whether she minds if the guy trying to sell drugs to her 12-year-old is put away for a long time.

The fact that members of the Congressional Black Caucus backed the law that put in place the sentencing disparity between people convicted of crack possession and those convicted of powder cocaine possession suggests that there was a time when the civil-rights leadership cared more about the effects drug use and drug related crimes were having on others in the community.

Drug-legalization proponents across the political spectrum often claim that there would be less violence if drugs were not part of a black market. But I can’t help but wonder whether people inclined to try to make money on the black market wouldn’t simply turn to other kinds of merchandise. Gun-running seems profitable, for instance.

The oddest part of this resolution, though, seems to be what it says about the NAACP’s priorities. At a time when black unemployment is through the roof and the educational race gap is widening, does the NAACP really think that drug legalization deserves a place high on its agenda?

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